by VANI, Forus Indian member.

Up until 2018, conversation on SDGs in India had been mostly limited to UN, Government (through Niti Aayog, think tank created by the Government of India (GoI) to oversee the implementation of SDGs) and few CSOs. The role of CSOs was clearly side-lined in India’s first Voluntary National Review (VNR) report, despite their crucial role in the implementation of social development projects and programs. Amongst CSOs, there was an inadequate association with SDGs, due to limited awareness and/or lack of linkage between SDGs and their area of work.

As an apex body of Voluntary Organizations, VANI had been working on SDG 17 - which focuses on strengthening implementation of SDGs through partnerships. In late 2018, VANI signed a partnership agreement with Forus to implement a project entitled “Amplifying Indian CSO’s role and effectiveness in the implementation of SDGs through awareness building and multi-stakeholder connect”.

An online research, undertaken with the support of VANI’s member organizations, reflected an extremely low awareness about SDGs and its processes amongst Indian CSOs (especially amongst the ones working at the grass-root level). This called for urgent attention towards the Localization of SDGs amongst the CSOs.  Three subsequent Regional-level Consultations covering participation from 13 states provided opportunity to raise awareness and interest of CSOs on SDGs, its relevance, linkage to state-run schemes, and its progress. They were encouraged to play a critical role in monitoring the inclusion of extremely marginalized communities in social development schemes.

On a parallel front, advocacy with government functionaries at Niti Aayog and other Government ministries was undertaken to urge the inclusion of CSOs in SDG processes, including in the preparation of the VNR, data collection, and for strengthened inter-sectoral linkages towards furtherance of Agenda 2030. A National-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation, “Collective Action – Gearing up for India’s VNR 2020 and Furtherance of Agenda 2030”, was organized by VANI in November 2019. Firsthand experiences from CSOs and sector experts (with participation/process involvement experience at the High-Level Political Forum) were shared.

In addition, beyond the Forus project, State-Level Consultations and Multi-Stakeholder Development Conclaves were organized in five states to collectivize different stakeholders in order to initiate joint efforts on Agenda 2030.

India is gearing up for the preparation of its second VNR to be presented in 2020. As a positive step, in late November 2019, Niti Aayog organized a meeting of CSOs on the Indian 2020 VNR on the Implementation of SDGs, to which VANI and some key CSOs were invited.  Theme-based CSOs were urged to organize nation-wide consultations for inputs in the VNR.

VANI’s journey of working on SDGs reflected the need for the localization and galvanization of efforts, which are important steps towards the realization of Agenda 2030.